Speech delivered by Gordon White, Vice-President and Chief Communications Officer, before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources - May 29, 2012
Thank you, Mr. Chair and Senators, for the invitation to appear before your Committee today to discuss the elements of the government’s Responsible Resource Development initiative that are related to the mandate of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
I am accompanied by Mr. Peter Elder, Director-General of the Directorate of Nuclear Cycle and Facilities Regulation and Dr. Patsy Thompson, Director-General of the Directorate of Environmental and Radiation Protection and Assessment.
As Canada’s sole nuclear regulator, the CNSC is responsible for maintaining the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment as it relates to our nuclear industry. We regulate pursuant to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and associated regulations.
The government’s Responsible Resource Development initiative proposes certain changes to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and associated regulations that will provide the CNSC with new authorities that I will outline shortly.
To better understand the CNSC’s regulatory regime, I would like to provide a snapshot on how we operate.
The CNSC (and its predecessor the Atomic Energy Control Board) have been regulating nuclear activities for more than 65 years. Activities regulated cover the entire nuclear cycle from uranium mining and milling through to fuel fabrication to nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants and ultimately waste management. Regulatory oversight also extends to nuclear substances and in commercial, medical, academic and research applications, as well as ensuring Canada’s commitments to nuclear security and non-proliferation are respected.
The CNSC is constituted as a quasi-judicial tribunal made up of permanent full-time and part-time Commissioners of various professional, scientific and environmental backgrounds, supported by CNSC staff. The Commission’s decisions relate primarily to the CNSC licensing regime and are appealable only to the Federal Court.
The CNSC’s licensing regime is both robust and progressive from construction through operation to decommissioning. Environmental assessments have been and will continue to be tailored to the type of nuclear project being considered (for example, uranium mine versus a nuclear power plant). Since 2000, the CNSC has participated in 66 environmental assessments that are either complete or ongoing.
Changes to the NSCA and Regulations
The legislation before the House both clarifies and enhances the CNSC’s ability to regulate Canada’s nuclear industry.
Consistent with projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the CNSC will amend regulations to formally establish 24-month timelines to render a decision for a licence to prepare a site for a Class I Nuclear Facility or a licence to prepare a site and construct a Uranium Mine or Mill.
These timelines commence with the acceptance by the CNSC of a completed application and include the time necessary for the CNSC to complete an environmental assessment and for the Commission to conduct hearings and to take a decision on a licence to prepare a site.
In addition, the proposed legislation provides the CNSC with the authority to establish and implement an Administrative Monetary Penalty program to further promote compliance by licensees through enforcement of licensing conditions and, in particular, environmental compliance.
The Bill also contains two provisions which can be characterized as administrative housekeeping items. First, it is proposed that the NSCA be amended to allow the Governor-in-Council to extend the maximum term of temporary Commission members from 6 months to 3 years to provide more flexibility and facilitate earlier Commission decisions.
Secondly, provisions in the NSCA are proposed to allow the CNSC to Transfer Licences to other qualified parties provided that the conditions of the licence continue to be met.
This will reduce regulatory burden and duplication for both proponents and the CNSC where nothing substantial has changed to warrant the need for an application for a new licence.
Under the proposed legislation, the CNSC will be one of three (3) agencies (along with the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) responsible for conducting Environmental Assessments.
The CNSC will continue to exercise its role as an agent of the Crown and is committed to fulfilling the Crown’s duty to consult with Canada’s Aboriginal people. We’re proud to have developed a pro-active Aboriginal consultation policy which is transparent and inclusive. Early in 2011 the CNSC launched its Participant Funding Program to make it easier for the public, including Aboriginal organizations, to participate in our regulatory proceedings.
In closing, the proposed legislation builds on changes to the CEA Act made in 2010 and recognizes the fact that the CNSC has ensured environmental protection through its environmental assessment screening decisions previously made under the CEA Act and its robust licensing process under the NSCA.
The proposed changes will clarify the CNSC’s role as it relates to nuclear projects in Canada, minimizing delays and further supporting the move to “one-project, one-review”, and moving us along to our goal of “one-project, one-review, one-regulator”.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide an overview of the CNSC’s mandate and regulatory regime. I look forward to your questions.